Red Flower Is One Of The Oldest Varieties Of Durians
It might surprise you that many durianers would claim that the best ones that they’ve ever had were kampung durians.
And then there is also a group who wouldn’t even want to have kumpung durians in their peripheral vision, let alone touch them.
This is how it is with kampung durians. You either don’t mind taking a risk with them, or the lack of a household name can be deemed by many as unworthy for their taste buds.
Before we go on, it should be noted that any durian without an official record can technically be classed as kampung durian. At the same time, various cultivars that are not registered have so much fame that people don’t realise that they are actually considered kampung, wild durians, or even mountain durians.
In the years when D24 ruled the Malay peninsula, durians were still considered fruits that consumers can enjoy with a little more money. But when musang king took over the reigns, the durian market started to become very commercialized. Durians these days are marketed as desserts.
And desserts typically sell for a higher price with good branding. This is why cafes and restaurants like Swenson’s and Haagen Dazs can sell their ice-creams at such premium prices.
This is also why branded durians have become the norm with the mass market.
After all, when you have just entered this market and have little knowledge about durians other than you need that taste in our mouth badly, going with brand names is a safe way to go about it.
But I also like to think that most people who have tried nothing but branded cultivars like mao shan wang and D24 knows at some level that they are barely scratching the surface of what beauty lies within the world of durian.
One of the types of durians you might encounter as you go deeper into this world is red flower. Bunga merah in Malay.
This is a variant of durio lowianus and one of the oldest durian variety around with aged trees that are as old as over 100 years old. One of which towers over every tree around it in a reclusive farm in Titi Akar.
The chinese name is hong hua (红花), which in hokkien dialect is pronounced as ang huey. Yet interestingly, it is usually called ang hua with the first word pronounced in dialect and the second word in chinese.
Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
Because this is such an old species, finding the real story of origin and the events that led to it’s success in the past might require a time machine.
However, what is clear is that it got it’s name from the red flowers that bloom on the tree and then carpet the ground beneath like an anime scene when they fall.
Today there are other durian trees with red flowers. But consumers generally associate the colours yellow and white with durian flowers.
The remaining trees of red flower durian tend to be kept by farmers who either feel a responsibility to keep them for heritage, or that removing them is just too much work to undertake.
Anyway, if you have a 100 year old tree in your farmland, would you have the heart to cut it off? You might as well boast about it to build up the reputation of the farm.
In 2022, this durian was registered as D225.
Features of red flower durian
The size of red flower is typically medium to large. More medium than large.
It looks rounded from a distance. But as you move closer, you’d start to see the softly curved contours of each protruding lobe. And coincidentally, you might find that the top view looking down can sometimes give it the appearance of a flower with petals.
The thorns are small and short which can be barely noticeable from a distance. Somewhat similar to red prawn. Maybe even resembling a pineapple. And if you move further away, they can look like the rind shell of lychee.
It’s husk is somewhere between dark green and regular green. Comparable to green skin 15.
A thick husk makes this one durian that is not as easy to open compared to something like D13. The central core especially, can occasionally be quite thick, making you work harder than you’d like to get into the flesh.
True to it’s name, red flower has a floral flavour and a heavy alcoholic taste that is considerably stronger than other cultivars known for floral aroma like little red. But the main taste is brandy mixed with whisky rum, and a mild bitter sweetness with a creamy texture.
The actual durian flavour is subtle. But you can’t be sure whether it is indeed subtle, or that the flavour is covered by the intense alcoholic taste.
When you eat it too fast, the bout of alcohol would shoot up your nose like too much wasabi on your California handroll.
This is an insane durian.
As you suck the flesh off the fruitlet, you’d soon discover that it has red seeds which lend further credence to the title of red flower. It’s not ferrari red or blood red… more towards dark maroon that kind of red.
This is a durian that can described as one of the pillars that hold up the reputation of kampung durians. You simply cannot write-off kampong durians when cultivars of this significance is grouped into it.
Red flower durian harvest season
A farm in Negeri Sembilan has reignited the consumer interest in red flower in recent years. The alias L13 is often used in these parts.
When the breathtaking floral display of red flowers start to bloom, it is a sign that the durians will ripe soon and naturally fall off the tree.
This typically happens mid-season.
But it won’t be easy to get your hands on one of these fruits.
Firstly, there is only a small supply. And I don’t think that it will grow exponentially. If farmers have more vacant space to plant new saplings, the overwhelming odds are that they will plant current proven favourites like musang king and black thorn.
Secondly, most general consumers will not have heard about red flower. So what are the chances of patrons of a durian stall buying it instead of the more popular cultivars. With so many famous names that basically sell themselves these days, sellers can find it troublesome to educate customers about a durian they have never heard before. This also indirectly also translates into a low price.
And thirdly, farmers who keep these trees treasure them a lot. Since the mass demand is not there to drive up a good margin, many would choose to keep their treasured fruits to enjoy them with friends and family.
All these factors mean that you might have to get busy building relationships with farmers who have this tree on their plantations for a chance to try this durian.